A Spring Paddle

At a graceful 17 feet long our Sawyer Cruiser canoe left the east shore of Griggs Reservoir just above Fishinger Road like a racehorse wanting to run even though it had been several months since we wet the paddles 1000 miles south in Florida. The plan was to follow the sunlit west shore north as far as we were inclined to see what migrating birds and other wildlife we might find. The choice of the Sawyer was dictated by the trip back to our launch site which would put an increasing wind in our face. None of our other canoes does “wind in the face” better than the Sawyer.

The plus side of looking for birds from a boat is that you have a continuous wall of trees and bushes of various sizes at water’s edge in which you might find them. The disadvantage is that the action of wind and waves must be dealt with in an effort to keep the canoe in position long enough to observe or in our case also photograph a small bird flitting about. Almost all of one’s creative paddle strokes are required. So, as with most of our birding by canoe outings, I handle the boat while my wife has all the pressure of trying to get a good picture.

Black-throated Green, (Donna).
White-eyed Vireo, (Donna).
Donna takes aim.
Painted Turtles, (Donna).
Yellow Warbler, (Donna).
Another view, (Donna).
Great Egret flies overhead, (Donna).
Our first Green Heron of the year, (Donna).
The Barn Swallows nest in the boat enclosures, (Donna).
Pie-billed Grebe, (Donna).
One of a number of Great Blue Herons seen, (Donna).
Take off, (Donna).
Pull out at Hayden Run, our northern terminus.
Male Wood Duck, (Donna).
Female Wood Duck, (Donna).
White-throated Sparrow, (Donna).
Hayden Run

Our first paddle of the year in Ohio had been a little over five miles, half of which was into a sometimes brisk wind. We felt good as we hauled the boat out, but we were glad we hadn’t decided to go further. The several hours spent had been a wonderful blend of appreciating nature coupled with the satisfaction of knowing it had all been accomplished under our own power. Our whole self had been engaged in the adventure.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wonder Close To Home

We do a fair amount of exploring of natural areas farther afield. Recently an unexpected development brought us back to Ohio from warm and sunny Florida a month ahead of schedule. Burr!!! Our trip south each winter is a real treat as we spend almost all of our time outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and photographing critters we see.

Tricolored Heron, Myakka River SP, Florida

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A couple of days after our arrival back in Ohio realizing that the frozen reservoir near our home might mean that waterfowl would be concentrated in the unfrozen river below the dam, we decided to check it out.

A male Wood Duck shares a log with a female Hooded Merganser
A Pied-billed Grebe blends in with female Hooded Mergansers
There were a fair number of Ring-necked and even a few Redhead Ducks, (Donna)
Male and female Goldeneye Ducks, (Donna)
Takeoff! (Donna)
A male Hooded Merganser isn’t interested in sharing.
Female and male Hooded Mergansers
Fishing success!
Perhaps the real surprise of our spur of the moment outing was seeing this male American Wigeon.

Seeing waterfowl so close to home that spend much of the year in locations further north and because of that are usually not seen in our “backyard” was a real treat. Our spirits were elevated after the disappointment of Florida. Setting aside our love of sunshine and warm temperatures, we were reminded that “other places” aren’t the only place to witness the wonder of nature and that there is magic right under our nose. Our local Ohio haunts once again made more precious.

Thanks for stopping by.

Autumn On Griggs Reservoir

By mid to late October in central Ohio, should we be blessed with a nice day, we wonder if it might be the season’s last opportunity for an enjoyable paddle.

It’s true that on days with little wind, if colder temperatures can be tolerated, one can usually paddle through December on Griggs Reservoir. But once the trees and leaves part company, the landscape takes on a stark appearance, and the experience becomes less intimate. One feels more exposed with only bare branches to separate the paddler from shoreline homes and the now much louder traffic noise from the adjacent highway.

Of the larger birds that can still be enjoyed; gulls, Great Blue Herons, and Belted Kingfishers will remain throughout the winter in areas where there is open water. There is also some compensation in the fact that, along with the Red-tailed and Coopers Hawk, the bare branches make spotting the resident pair of Bald Eagles much easier. Concerning living things other than birds, on a December paddle a few years ago we did see a few turtles enjoying the sun. However, that was a rare exception as, for the most part, by mid-November wildlife becomes scarce. Great Egrets, cormorants, vultures, and osprey have all headed south. Of the smaller birds, with the exception of a few yellow-rumped warblers that may hang around all winter, the others warblers have long since passed through. 

Motivated by these thoughts a few days ago, we put the boat in the water on what could turn out to be the last really nice day.

Looking for birds and other critters.

Those of you that have followed this blog for a while may have heard us reflect that one never knows what will be discovered when paddling our local reservoirs. We often go some distance without seeing anything other than a few of the usual suspects,

High overhead this Great Blue Heron watched as we paddle by.

.   .   .  then just when we’re about to assign the outing “well, it was a nice paddle  .   .   .” status, we stumble upon something that charms and amazes us. Such was the case when we happened upon three killdeer at water’s edge engaged in what seemed to be some sort of dance. They postured, positioned, and pursued each other for as long as we chose to watch. Mating behavior in autumn? We were left to wonder.

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Griggs Reservoir is a long narrow body of water bordered by homes on one side and a highway and city park on the other.

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Paddling into a breeze that reminded us how long it had been since we were in the canoe, we left the killdeer behind and headed back to our launch site still excited about what we’d witnessed and telling ourselves that, even if we saw nothing else, it had been a great day.

A small Map Turtle cooperates for a picture which is not usually the case for these very wary turtles, (Donna).

A female Wood Duck’s portrait gets photo bombed by a mallard, (Donna).

These mallard Ducks are apparently not “locals” as they took flight as we got close. The year round residents would not have flown, (Donna).

We actually got close enough for an acceptable picture of this male Belted Kingfisher. Anyone who has ever tried to photograph these birds realizes it’s not an easy task, (Donna).

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While not possessing the beautiful autumn color of a Vermont maple this sycamore does it’s best.

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As we “headed for the barn”, our day just about complete, we noticed commotion in a dead tree at waters edge. Moving closer, a number of Eastern Bluebirds were observed very actively checking out what had been a tree swallow nesting cavity earlier in the year. Surely they weren’t getting ready to make little bluebirds this late in the year. (It turns out the bluebirds may nest more than once a year.) We were almost as entranced as we had been by the killdeer and moved on only when our curiosity had been satisfied and maintaining the boat position, in the increasing windy conditions, started to seem like work. 

Male and female Eastern Bluebirds check out a nesting cavity, (Donna).

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A few hundred yards later, we pulled the canoe out of the water and stowed the gear in the car. It had been a good day. Would it be the year’s last nice one for a paddle?

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Thanks for stopping by.

Measuring Wealth

Certainly not an original thought, but most would say that if you have your health, enough resources to ensure adequate food and shelter, some leisure time when you are not dealing with “resources”, and good friends with whom you enjoy sharing life’s adventure, additional wealth is probably not going to contribute to life’s meaning or happiness. It also doesn’t hurt to have a curiosity about life as It will keep you engaged and seeking until the day your number gets called.

So what does any of this have to do with nature and where is Central Ohio Nature going with this? Well to get to the punch line without further delay, it has to do with an awareness of wealth that was experienced after a recent outing in the canoe. Of course this awareness doesn’t just drop out of the sky, it is facilitated by reading and enough research to appreciate what is being seen and experienced, good health and fitness to undertake the adventure, and last but not least, the company of a willing co-conspirator (in this case my wife) never hurts.

So what exactly contributed to the awareness of wealth on this particular day?

First, there’s the aesthetic of the canoe, it’s graceful purposeful shape, and the way the paddler and the canoe become one as they quietly move through the water with only the sound of the paddle as it brakes the water’s surface, is drawn back, and then, with droplets shed from the blade playing the stroke’s final notes, it leaves the water and returns to the beginning. A meditation; paddler, canoe, and water.

The north end of Griggs Reservoir. It’s hard to believe we are in the middle of a metropolitan area. We had the place to ourselves that day.

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Secondly, along with a good cast of supporting characters, at the north end of the reservoir in a stand of dead trees we had our first ever sighting of red-headed woodpeckers at that location.

Red-headed Woodpecker

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The supporting characters, not all of which are pictured, included osprey, juvenile spotted sandpiper, great blue heron (common), green heron, great egret, black-crowned night heron, belted kingfisher, great-crested flycatcher, wood ducks, double-crested cormorants, mallard duck, map turtle, large eastern spiny soft shell turtle, and a large snapping turtle.

Spotted Sandpiper

Great Blue Heron

Green Heron

Great Egret

Black-crowned Night Heron

Female Belted Kingfisher

Great Crested Flycatcher

Mother Wood Duck with young.

A large Eastern Spiny Softshell.

With the exception of the canoe all other photos are by my wife.

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The well connected lawyer or successful entrepreneur measures their wealth in a different way than most equally successful individuals who love nature but may have a less demanding career. The “buy in” on a wealthy street in our area may require that one to be engaged with a community of like minded individuals who have also attended prestigious institutions of higher learning. This coupled with a family legacy, and the “cross pollination” with other like minded established families may be key stepping stones to shared values and wealth which include the necessary hard to fake accoutrements, such as a large beautiful house and luxury cars, which signal one’s membership in the tribe. 

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But we are all destined to travel a narrow path and are all members of a some tribe. A path taken often excludes others. There is only so much life we can live. While there are undoubtedly exceptions, one would not expect that a successful high net worth entrepreneur would consider it a worthwhile use of their limited free time to walk a wetland path learning about dragonflies. Perhaps a business ski vacation to Colorado would serve their purposes better. However, is the person with more limited resources, for whom Colorado ski vacations are a bit out of reach, but who spends their time in the company of dragonflies and thus the interconnected web of life, any less “wealthy”?

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So the challenge for us all is to increase our wealth in ways that speak to our soul. The sacrifices that an entrepreneur makes to be successful in their realm are significant. From the point of view of a lover of nature they will miss out on at lot. The wealth bestowed from time spent in nature comes from a deep sense of connectedness that transcends our own self, allowing us to no longer think it terms of boundaries but instead to embrace the whole. It is something that money cannot buy and is beyond valuing. Perhaps Thoreau said it better than anyone has since:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
 
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods
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Thanks for stopping by.
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Canoeing And Red-headed Woodpeckers

It’s always fun when one can combine two loves. In this case canoeing and birds. My wife and I are blessed with a fondness for the active engagement of moving under our own power, be it it hiking, cycling, or paddling. It turns out that this type of quiet activity enhances the chance of seeing birds and other wildlife.

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The last week found us at the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir twice. The reservoir comprises a large portion of Alum Creek State Park. The first of two fairly long paddles was to see what birds we might find and the second was to get a better look at the red-headed Woodpeckers seen a few days before. Red-headed Woodpeckers are always a treat to set because their numbers have decreased significantly in recent years.

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According to Cornell’s All About Birds: “Red-headed Woodpeckers declined by over 2% per year from 1966 to 2014, resulting in a cumulative decline of 70%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.2 million, with 99% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 1% in Canada. The species is at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. These woodpeckers were common to abundant in the nineteenth century, probably because the continent had more mature forests with nut crops and dead trees. They were so common that orchard owners and farmers used to pay a bounty for them, and in 1840 Audubon reported that 100 were shot from a single cherry tree in one day. In the early 1900s, Red-headed Woodpeckers followed crops of beech nuts in northern beech forests that are much less extensive today. At the same time, the great chestnut blight killed virtually all American chestnut trees and removed another abundant food source. Red-headed Woodpeckers may now be more attuned to acorn abundance than to beech nuts. After the loss of nut-producing trees, perhaps the biggest factor limiting Red-headed Woodpeckers is the availability of dead trees in their open-forest habitats”.

Loading camera equipment into our fast but stable 18 foot Sawyer canoe. Unless you are near shore. it’s hard to appreciate this boat’s speed when you really want to get somewhere, as it leaves virtually no disturbance in the water.

Getting ready to depart on a very quiet morning.

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Not our primary objective but it wasn’t long before Prothonotary Warblers were spotted at waters edge.

Protonotary Warbler

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The next meal, (Donna).

Not a good day for the spider, (Donna).

Shortly after our encounter with the Prothonotary Warblers we spotted an Eastern Kingbird on it’s nest on a branch overhanging the water.

Eastern Kingbirds are common along Ohio reservoirs in the summer.

Along with Wood Ducks, Osprey and one Bald Eagle and an Indigo Bunting, there were many Great Blue Heron sightings. However, in what was somewhat of a surprise, no Green Herons were seen.

A mother Wood Duck heads for cover, (Donna).

Great Blue Heron, (Donna).

Indigo Bunting

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Further up river:

Our first look in the area where we had seen the Red-headed Woodpeckers an few days before didn’t turn up much, so we headed further up Alum Creek to see what else might be found.

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On the return leg we stopped at what appeared to be a Red-headed Woodpecker “hotspot” and were rewarded with a number of sightings.

The habitat at the north end of the reservoir.

A juvenile was the first to permit photographs:

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***, (Donna).

.   .   .  and then after some repositioning and jockeying the canoe looking for better views and better light we were able to get some shots of an adult!

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We’ve paddled to the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir many times over the years and this was the first time we’ve seen Red-headed Woodpeckers in these numbers, perhaps three adult pairs. Was our timing just bad in the past, were we just not looking for them so they remained unseen, or were they not there, at least in the quantities observed? We’re are not sure but hopefully future trips will answer the question. Meanwhile we will rejoice in having seen them and may even pay them another visit before the year is over.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

An Early Spring Paddle

In recent days bird activity betrays the fact that from a distance the landscape is still more reminiscent of a snowless winter day than spring. Hearing but not seeing any first of the season migrating warblers we’ve nonetheless been entertained by other birds engaged in spring preparations or just passing through.

Eastern Phoebe

White-throated Sparrow

Downy Woodpecker

It’s a male!

Female Cardinal.

An illusive Brown Creeper

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It’s not just the sight and sound of birds, but the call of spring peepers in low lying flooded areas, that bring music to the day. Much easier to see but not nearly as vocal, bullfrogs are also present. Under budding bare branches in wooded areas a closer look around our feet reveals spring wildflowers sparkling in last year’s leaf litter.

Spring Beauty

Bloodroot, (Donna)

Twinleaf, (Donna)

Bullfrog

The very small flowers of Harbinger of Spring, (Donna)

Dutchman’s Breeches, (Donna).

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Recently, after arriving at a local park, a magic moment occurred when a large group of White Pelicans were spotted overhead on their way north. Something we don’t recall ever seeing in central Ohio before. By the time cameras left their bags, etc., there was time for just one shot before the birds were obscured by nearby trees.

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The chocolate milk color of water in most central Ohio reservoirs says spring and offers proof of recent heavy rains and runoff from yet to be planted farm fields. However, yesterday we ignored the water’s uninviting color, given that it was an otherwise a perfect day, and launched the canoe to go exploring. As we headed out, numerous Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Bonaparte’s Gulls continued to feed on small dead or dying shad (as they have for the last couple of weeks), while turtles took advantage of the warm sun.

Almost ready to launch on Griggs Reservoir in our fast 18ft Sawyer Cruiser.

Red Eared Sliders enjoy the sun, (Donna).

Many trees are starting to leaf out. There were very few boats on the reservoir for a Saturday.

Great Egrets in breeding plumage, (Donna).

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This large beaver lodge has been at the north end of Griggs Reservoir for years.

A lighter Red Eared Slider and a Map Turtle.

My wife had numerous opportunities to photograph Wood Ducks during our paddle. This was one of her best shots.

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So hopefully warbler spring migrant pictures will grace the pages of a blog in the near future but in the mean time we’ll continue to celebrate all of the other things seen.

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Stay safe and as always, thanks for stopping by

A Big Buck

It promised to be a pleasant mid-October day with little wind. Cool 45F morning air was the price of admission as we started our paddle on a local reservoir. Seeking the sun’s warmth we headed for the western shore as the canoe moved through the still water with a graceful confidence. The outing was prompted by a favorable forecast and the realization that, given the time of year, one never knows how many nice day’s are left. Leaves still adorned trees with subtle hints of central Ohio’s fall color. In a month, should we be blessed with a equally warm day, branches would be bare the landscape brown and gray.

Exploring the shoreline of Griggs Reservoir.

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The west side of the long narrow reservoir is populated by numerous large homes set back (for the most part) a reasonable distance from the shore. A few small interspersed wooded areas provide a nice habitat for deer, beaver, mink and various species of birds. As we headed north, warblers, blue jays, and robins flitted about at waters edge in trees warmed by the morning sun, none cooperating for a photograph.

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However, we hadn’t gone far when a young male Wood Duck was spotted. It wasn’t sure which way to go as we approached and it’s ever changing direction caused it’s blue wing feathers to light up.

Immature male Wood Duck, (Donna).

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Other things were also seen during our paddle and as we briefly explored the north end of the reservoir on foot.

North end pull out, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

We watched this Downy Woodpecker spent quite a bit of time working on one particular tree, (Donna).

A warm October afternoon and a smiling Map Turtle, (Donna).

This Great Blue Heron had something to say, (Donna).

North end landscape, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Fiery Skipper, one of the few butterflies seen, (Donna).

Field Sparrow, (Donna).

A beautiful White-crowned Sparrow, our first sighting of the season, Kiwanis Riverway Park, (Donna).

A pile of turtles enjoy the autumn sun, (Donna).

Previous frosty nights had done little to curb this Monkey Flower’s enthusiasm, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

One of the numerous Great Blue Herons that took flight during our paddle, (Donna).

A north end “paddlescape”

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We have seen our share of Whitetail Dear along the reservoir. In fact they are so common we hardly take notice. But at one point during our paddle what we saw stopped us in our tracks. At first, with only the tip of one antler visible, it wasn’t clear what it was, but as I slowed the canoe, and my wife got ready to shoot, it looked up.

The big buck, at least 14 points, White-tailed Deer, (Donna).

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We had never seen such a large buck and it made our day!

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Nineteen mile an hour winds will keep us off the reservoir today so perhaps I’ll actually get some things done around the house. Thanks for stopping by.

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Neighborhood Migrants

Warm days, now noticeably shorter, are giving way to colder nights with the landscape increasingly graced with the colors of autumn in Ohio.

Autumn reflection in central Ohio.

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During the past couple of weeks we’ve made a concerted effort to look for birds passing through Griggs Reservoir Park on their southern migration. We’ve avoiding the temptation to travel further afield thinking it would be fun just to see what is or isn’t passing through our “neighborhood”. There have been reports of birds that have eluded us, such as the Blackpoll and Yellow-throated Warbler, but all in all the effort has been rewarding.

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The Black-throated Green Warblers were very cooperative:

***, (Donna)

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Only one Cape May Warbler was seen:

Female Cape May Warbler

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A fair number of Northern Parula Warblers were spotted:

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This Yellow-throated Vireo is not sure he wants to eat a stink bug:

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We had only one sighting of a Black-throated Blue Warbler:

Good enough to ID the bird but that’s it.

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The fairly common Yellow-rumped Warblers are often seen eating poising ivy berries:

***, (Donna)

 

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A Nashville Warbler was also part of the mix:

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One Ruby-crowned Kinglet tries it’s best to hide while another jumps right out and poses. To date more kinglets have been heard than seen.

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Contrasting with last year, this has not been a good year for seeing Black-crowned Herons on the reservoir. However, on a resent paddle we were rewarded:

Juvenile, (Donna).

Adult, (Donna).

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While looking for warblers a group of very active Blue Birds was hard to ignore:

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A young male Wood Duck has been hanging around the park for the last couple of weeks. By it’s association with a group of mallards it appears to think it’s one:

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We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge some of the other birds that have fascinated us while we looked for fall migrants.

An immature Red-tailed Hawk seemed curious about what we were up to.

Something has this Juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker’s attention, (Donna).

A Mallard Duck, bathed in autumn light, swims across the reservoir.

A pair of Northern Flickers, (Donna).

A Tufted Titmouse acts cute like titmouse do, (Donna).

A White-breasted Nuthatch goes about it’s day.

One of the many Cedar Waxwings seen in the park in recent weeks.

A female Downy Woodpecker poses for a picture.

A Great Blue Heron strikes a graceful pose along the Scioto River, (Donna).

This Blue Jay has quite a mouthful, (Donna).

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It’s a dark gray rainy morning as I finish writing this so it’s hard to imagine what nature will offer in the coming days and this is the time of year when things tend to wind down. However, if past experience is any indication, it will only take another walk in the woods to again experience the magic. Thanks for stopping by.

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The Show

Recently we were flattered with an invitation to exhibit some of our photographs at the church we attend. The invitation was undoubtedly the result of this blog as well as various Facebook posts that friends and acquaintances have seen over the years. A friend commented that they might not be able to get over to the exhibit so the thought occurred that perhaps a post showing the pictures was in order. We hope you enjoy them.

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Lilly Pads, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, FL.

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Blackburnian Warbler, Magee Marsh, OH, (Donna).

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Wild Geranium, Glenn Echo Park, OH.

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Hummingbird Moth, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Leaf, Griggs Reservoir, OH.

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Wood Duck, Griggs Reservoir, OH, (Donna).

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Squiggle, Griggs Reservoir, OH

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Prothonotary Warbler, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

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Branches, Griggs Reservoir, OH.

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Red Winged Blackbird, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Misty Morning, Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area, MI.

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Spring Azure on Phlox, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, OH, (Donna).

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Tree, Salt Fork State Park, OH.

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Cedar Waxwings, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Tree and Rock, Big Bend Natl Park.

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Purple Gallinule, Lake Kissimmee SP, FL, (Donna).

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New Art Exhibit at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus 93 W. Weisheimer Rd. Columbus, OH 43214-2544, “The Eye of the Beholder,” July 2- August 25. Join the artists for a reception: Sunday, July 14, 11:30-1pm. Food, conversation and photos.

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Approach photography playfully, you’ll have more fun, and your photographs will speak with a new voice.  Thanks for stopping by.

An Uncommon Loon

During a recent rough and windy late May paddle in central Ohio we were excited by the sighting of an immature Common Loon. This is the first time we’d seen one while paddling in Ohio. Usually they’ve moved north by the time we get the canoe in the water so this one was a bit of a mystery. On this particular day our goal had been to see warblers while exploring the reservoir’s quiet coves but the wind put a damper on that effort. Fortunately there were other things to see.

Common Loon, Alum Creek Reservoir north of Cheshire Rd, (Donna).

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In one cove after a little exploring on foot a relatively new Beaver lodge and dam were discovered.

Beaver Lodge, Alum Creek State Park.

A beaver lodge resident, Kentucky Flat Millipede.

Beaver Dam, Alum Creek State Park.

.   .   .  and yes we did get one very average picture of a Yellow Warbler near the beaver dam.

Yellow Warbler, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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A little further on a mother Wood Duck did her best to distract us from her babies.

Female Wood Duck, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

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The outing’s best bird pictures were taken by my wife at the end of the day while I put the canoe on the roof of the car.

Eastern Towhee, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

Female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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The season moves on and with it the ever increasing activity of butterflies and dragonflies. New adventures await.

Female Common Whitetail.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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